Bollywood star Aamir Khan's production venture Peepli Live, a strong satire on farmers' suicides in India, received a hearty reception at the press screening during the ongoing Berlin International Film Festival.
Directed by Anusha Rizvi, the film, screened in the Berlinale Special section - part of the official selection of the Berlin festival - will also be screened at the Cinema Paris here.
"It feels great to be selected for the prestigious Berlin film festival. I went to a screening this morning and the audience was fabulous. They are so dedicated to film, they're just something else! I can't wait for my screening," Rizvi told IANS.
She plays down how she got Aamir to produce her first film: "Oh, I just sent him an e-mail and he read my script and said yes," she said.
Tom Luddy, co-director of the Telluride film festival, lauded the film as "a splendid film from India that reminds me of Billy Wilder's 'Ace in the Hole'."
The film has arrived in Berlin after being screened in the competition section at the Sundance Film Festival.
Rizvi's debut film mounts a savage attack on the media and politicians' response to farmers' suicides. In this, it has resonances of Oscar winner Danis Tanovic's No Man's Land, but it is powerfully rooted in Indian reality.
The film boasts a strong script, great performances by Raghuvir Yadav and a largely local cast and razor sharp editing. There is no doubt that 2010 is seeing an explosion of cinematic talent and Rizvi's film is proof of that. It is also significant that a Bollywood actor would produce a small budget arthouse film without stars and dances.
The story focuses on two poor farmers, Natha and Budhia, who are at the end of their tether, unable to pay their debts. When the local politician refuses to help, they learn that they could benefit from a government scheme that would pay compensation in case a farmer committed suicide.
They sense that a dead farmer is more use to the family than a living one. A journalist overhears their discussion, and this triggers a vicious media frenzy with live streaming news and polls as to whether or not Natha will commit suicide. The film tackles caste, class, politics and media in an explosive cocktail.
Rizvi, who has a television background, sharply etches the politics of TV media, their rivalries, the hierarchy between English and regional media and how urban journalists exploit rural journalists.